BY the last week of February of 1945, the Allies were concluding three important offensives on Luzon: Retaking Corregidor, Battle in Manila, liberation of Los Baños.
Of the first event, a primary account: “Corregidor and Bataan of historic memories were taken with relative ease. History did not repeat itself. The small but epic peninsula was cleaned of Japanese by an American division which two weeks earlier had landed in Subic.
Troops also landed on Corregidor from the air and from the sea in a simultaneous landing screened by squadron fire. The air drop operation was very difficult as the small island did not have sufficient landing areas. Never had there been such a big casualty in so small an operation. The invaders had to finish off the 7,000 defenders, with only some 20 prisoners taken.” [Entry for February 25, 1945, Diary of Juan Labrador, O.P.]
This American victory was celebrated last 18 February 2020 with a special screening of the Spyron AV Manila documentary “Corregidor: The Road Back” at the Charles Parsons Ballroom of the US Embassy in the Philippines hosted by Ambassador Sung Y. Kim and attended by WW2 veteran Richard Adams of the 503rd Infantry Regiment, personnel of the 317th Airlift Wing, and your columnist, among others.
Of the second event: “In the early part of February 1945, at about 7 p.m., a group of Japanese, most of them officers, came to the house of Miss Asuncion Marvas, of 239 San Marcelino, Manila. Miss Marvas and the members of her family were taken to the German Club. There were an estimated 500 people assembled there. When anyone attempted to leave the building, they were shot or hand grenades were thrown at them. Most of the people were killed because the place was burned.
Miss Marvas wanted to go away, but the Japanese stabbed her in the buttocks. She was lying on her face or stomach at the time they stabbed her. Then, to be sure that she was dead, one of the Japanese again bayoneted her. The names of others killed were not determined. About a week later, Americans took Miss Marvas to the Psychopathic Hospital, Manila. Her wounds were not attended to before that, as she hid in a dugout with others. Even though she was a nurse, she was unable to dress her wounds because of no material.
On 3 March, the inspector general conducting the investigation was informed that Miss Marvas was in a serious condition and was expected to die because tetanus (lockjaw) had set in. Miss Marvas saw a one-month-old baby killed.”
The 75th anniversary of the Rape of Manila was observed last 15 February 2020 at Intramuros with a ceremonial tolling of the bells for which the script included: “For the Filipino and foreign forces who bitterly fought and died to resist the enemy. Through rough seas, ruined towns and jungle-clad mountains, they crawled their way to victory to liberate the Motherland … For the living veterans who carry the stories and legacies of bravery and valor, especially of their fallen comrades. Through them we learn the heroism of Filipinos, even the smallest and simplest contributions they gave for the Motherland. Their presence is an honor for all of us.”
At that commemoration (organized by Memorare Manila 1945 Foundation), the SSR192 class of the UP Manila Master of Management Program conducted a survey: 62% of the respondents were not related to any WW2 Veteran, while 32% were related to a WW2 Veteran and 6% were unsure or unaware; 78% of the respondents said they will volunteer to serve in the next world war just like our veterans who committed given their nationalism and patriotism; and 86% answered ROTC could help the Philippines prepare for future wars.
This Master of Management survey was also presented by Melanie Alcantara at the 24 February 2020 “Tapatan sa the Aristocrat” (a weekly press conference organized by veteran journalist Melo Acuna every Monday, 9 a.m. to noon, at the Aristocrat Restaurant in Malate, Manila). She was joined by Rhett Daza (president, Hunters-ROTC Guerrillas Historical Society), Emily Young (past president, Wa Chi Guerrillas Descendants), Ernesto R. del Rosario (former director, Information Technology, Comelec), Pamela Joyce Silverio (who shared the SSR192 survey on travel), and your columnist.
Of the third event: The G.H.Q. Southwest Pacific Area issued Special Communiqué No. 1054, 24 February 1945: “We have rescued another group of civilian internees 2146 strong including men, women and children. The majority were Americans but other nationalities were liberally represented, comprising 300 British, and small groups of Australians, Canadians, Dutch, Polish, Norwegians and Italians. They were imprisoned at Los Baños in the hills above the southern shores of Laguna de Bay 25 miles within enemy held territory.
A carefully coordinated raid by the 11th Airborne Division of the XIV Corps and the Luzon Guerrillas, under the overall command of Colonel Robert H. Soule, accomplished the rescue. A selected detachment of the 511th Parachute Regiment taking off from Nichols Field in Manila made a parachute jump directly on the prison camp. In the meanwhile, for several nights the guerrillas had been infiltrating through the enemy’s lines towards Los Baños and elements of the 11th Division the night before the morning of the attack crossed Laguna de Bay in amphibious craft. Immediately on the parachute drop all three columns attacked. The Japanese guards were completely surprised at morning calisthenics and the commander, his staff and the entire garrison of 243 were killed and their barracks burned.
A defense cordon was immediately thrown around the captives who were in units for morning roll call. They were formed in columns, litter cases on amtracks, and taken to the bay and transported to safety by amphibious craft. The covering force then withdrew to our lines. Our losses were two killed, two wounded and two internees slightly injured.”
The 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Los Baños internment camp was celebrated last 21 February 2020 at the DL Umali Hall of UP Los Baños with a special screening of the Spyron AV Manila documentary “Unsurrendered 2: The Hunters-ROTC Guerrillas” and a forum featuring Sofia G. Tidon (guerrilla and survivor of the Japanese massacre of civilians in Los Baños). There was also a wreath-laying at the Baker Hall historical marker where Prof. Eugene Raymond P. Crudo (head, Division of History, Social Sciences Department, UPLB) said: “I am fully aware of the implications of commemorations such as this to nation-building as well as in the politics of memory. It is a challenge to delve into sources, find counter-narratives and continue to advocate the lessons we can learn from history.”
The WW2 legacies for the current Kasaysayan I Class of Prof. Bernard Karganilla are better transmogrified into a Modern Medic Kit Exhibit held last 19-22 February 2020 at the UP College of Nursing. Their concept: “Alumanahin” (1) to take care of and (2) to be mindful of. The exhibit centered on medications and equipment one must prepare in emergencies. There was a live reenactment of scenes and a live demonstration of wound dressing, bandaging, and basic life support.